The Truth of Who We Are
Unlike traditional Christianity, Unity teaches the idea of “original blessing” rather than “original sin.” In the first talk of her six part series, Sacred Earth, Sacred Work, Rev. Joanne reminds us that Christianity is the only spiritual traditional that teaches the idea of original sin. Beginning with St. Augustine (354-430), Christians have been taught that we are “fallen” from paradise and all of our efforts are to be made toward regaining Eden.
We read in the Genesis creation story that when God looked back on all he created, he declared it “good, and very good.” Rev. Joanne tells us that Unity teaches the idea that we experience life according to the consciousness we bring to it. Since St. Augustine, the Christian world has been focusing on our “fallen” nature. As a result of this consciousness, what have we found evidence for? our “sinful and fallen” nature, because our brains have evolved to seek evidence for ideas we already believe to be true.
In much of the world now and in the past, we have experienced wars, division and arguing. This is evidence of our experiencing life from a consciousness of sinfulness. But God declared all He had made as good, and very good. And as Rev. Joanne reminds us, creation continues to unfold that is good, and very good, when we remember to view life from that perspective – from the perspective of remembering our divinity, and that divinity is within everything.
We can experience God in many ways, Rev. Joanne says. Asking the congregation how they experience God, she received answers such as nature, prayer, music, in a smile, children, in relationships. There are many, many things that we often take for granted that truly are blessings, she reminds us. Those of us who have the conveniences of modern technology such as indoor plumbing and electricity are blessings unimaginable to all of humanity until less than two hundred years ago, and to much of humanity even today. We can, and should, delight in these blessings and so many more when we approach life from that consciousness to recognize them as such.
Something as simple as enjoying fresh strawberries throughout the year, not just when they are in season, Rev. Joanne tells us, is just one of the many things we can experience in every moment of every day when we recognize our original blessing, and the sacredness of our experience and our earth.
So what is a blessing, and what does it take to be a blessing, Rev. Joanne asks? She tells us of Catholic priest and theologian Henri Rouwen (1932-1996) who was engaged in ministry to support adults with physical and mental challenges. During a talk one day, a woman asked him for a blessing. Not knowing exactly what to do, he placed a sign of the cross on her forehead with his hand. The woman said, “it didn’t work.” Still unsure of how to best help this lady, he continued his talk. Near the end of the talk, he said to those gathered, “Janet wants a blessing.” She approached him, and setting her head on his chest, he hugged her. He told her, “you are loved, you are important, you are good.” She smile broadly and said, “thank you, now I remember.” Rev. Joanne tells us that it was in that moment, in the exchange that took place, that the blessing occurred.
Blessings occur in an exchange, Rev. Joanne explains. They can occur as they did between Henri and Janet, or between our minds and our own bodies, as it did for Unity co-founder Myrtle Fillmore (1845-1931). Myrtle refused to accept a diagnosis of chronic tuberculosis for which the medicines of her day were not sufficient, and instead decided to daily bless every part of her body. In this way she was able to be healed.
There are many other ways that blessings can occur in an exchange, such as a blessing between ourselves and those with whom we interact, between ourselves and our community, or between ourselves and nature. We do this, Rev. Joanne says, when we see in each other and know the Truth of the divine Christ nature that is each each of us and within all of creation. She tells us that when we realize that we are good, and very good, and can live into that, then we are live the idea of Sacred Earth, Sacred Work, and is so doing reveal the blessing that we are.
Persian poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Mohammad Rūmī (1207-1273) had a gift for distilling complex philosophical ideas into profoundly beautiful poetry. Speaking to the idea that all experiences in life are blessings, that we can find a gift in even those things that are unpleasant, he penned the well know poem The Guest House, given here in the translation by Coleman Barks (b. 1937):
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Rev. Joanne tells us, as Rumi wrote, that when we realize that life is good, and very good and that the very essence of who we are is divine, then we recognize that every moment of every day is an opportunity to discover the gift. We then can ask ourselves, how am I going to show up in this moment, and what will I create from this?
Our consciousness, that is our attitude toward and about life, directs our experience of the people places, things, and events in our life. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) famously said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.” This idea is completely consistent with what Unity teaches. Rev. Joanne asks us, then, how can we ever realize our divinity if we remain stuck in the idea that we are sinful? To be able to move forward, she says, we must create our world from a place of possibility instead of problems, and abundance instead of limitation. When we do this, she says, we will reveal in every moment the sacredness of this world.
We hold for this community, and what is unfolding now (and for what is to come following Rev. Joanne’s retirement on July 31, 2021), the blessing we know we will be giving and receiving for and from one another. Creation did not end when God created the world, Rev. Joanne says, but continues in each of us when we create in the consciousness of blessing with and for one another.
Now Go and Be the Light.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning - the sixth day. Genesis 1:31
In this first week of our series on creation spirituality, we focus on the idea of “original blessing.” The universe, and all life within it, is fundamentally a blessing, fundamentally good, and created to flourish–including us. This doesn’t prevent hardship and difficulties, but it does strengthen us as we go through tough times. It allows us to deepen in faith and spirituality without fear. Life in all its joys and struggles is a blessing – which means, it is something worth sharing. How might moving through your week with an eye for recognizing goodness and blessing transform your experience of life? Set the intention to look for the blessing everywhere this week.